Big Nils

By
Photography Sebastian Kim

Published October 27, 2011

Teenage angst is alive and well, and living in Northampton, Massachusetts, as the fledgling punks in Big Nils can attest. The quartet, composed of Coco Gordon Moore (vocals), Zoe Wardlaw (guitar), Lilly Daiber (bass), and Sen Morimoto (drums), performs the sort of no-nonsense rock ’n’ roll that has inspired rebellious kids for generations. Which is appropriate considering that the members of Big Nils are still kids themselves—all 17- and 18-year-old high-school seniors or recent graduates—and arrive steeped in the ways and means of musical dissent: Gordon Moore is the daughter of art-school mainstays Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and the members cite a range of influences that includes Bikini Kill, the Circle Jerks, and The Runaways. Taking their band name from a tall German acquaintance of Morimoto’s—it’s pronounced “Big Kneels”— the quartet self-released their debut, Sibling, early last summer. The album is an eight-song collection of tough guitars and tinny percussion, layered with fluid, stream-of-consciousness vocals on songs like “Deep Dark Death,” “Herpes,” and “Wake Up.” The lyrics have an innocent, sing-song quality (“Herpes” was written as an in-joke response to the effects of Gordon Moore banging her lip against a microphone), which fits, considering that many of them are taken from a journal the singer kept as a 12-year-old. “‘Wake Up’ was from a chapter of a story I wrote,” Gordon Moore says. “It was about a girl and her family. She has to get up and take care of all of them, but at the end of the chapter she goes to her brother’s room and screams because there’s a dead body in there.” The demands of high school prevent Big Nils from doing much in the way of touring, though they play live shows frequently in the northeast and have developed a line of merch, the centerpiece of which is silk-screened underwear—“clean, freshly ironed” underwear, they note—and are planning to record new material soon. As for whether the band will survive the obligations of college, the quartet says they haven’t given it much thought. “I guess we’ll see how it goes,” says Morimoto. Adds Wardlaw: “Definitely look forward to the reunion show in 20 years.”